Pramila Jayapal – Executive of the Year
By Kip Tokuda
I met Pramila in the late 1990s, after she had spent more than a decade traveling throughout India as a reform activist, advocating social and economic justice. As many of you know, she hit the street running as a community activist in White Center and there experienced profound social and economic injustices suffered by immigrants and refugees. She was also a strong voice against domestic violence which is where we intersected.
Enter Hate Free Zone. Pramila determined that without a strong, concerted voice, immigrants and refugees would continue their plight as the underserved, the marginalized, and the target of institutionalized bigotry. In 2001, Pramila helped found Hate Free Zone, an organization dedicated to organizing the immigrant and refugee communities to better engage in the political process and ultimately address the barriers they face. Over the past decade, HFZ — now named OneAmerica — has become one of the strongest civil rights organizations in Washington State. Pramila is considered one of the foremost spokespersons, nationally, on the issues relating to immigrants and refugees and more broadly on issues relating to economic and social justice. When I spoke to her recently she was in Washington D.C. speaking at a rally for Trayvon Martin.
Pramila has recently resigned as executive director of OneAmerica after 11 years at the helm and is working on several local initiatives. Many say that she was primarily responsible for moving the Seattle City Council to create the Immigrant and Refugee department. She is able to work behind the scenes while effectively creating change. I have a very high regard for Pramila’s understanding of the political process and of her ability to effectively use it towards progressive change.
I am sure that Pramila is contemplating a move that will significantly move her agenda towards economic and social justice. I am not sure where this will lead but I am clear about her immediate priority. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing her son, Janak, perform at a jazz concert. He is an accomplished musician, although that is not what impressed me most. It was of her obvious pride and love of her son. It is also clear that his well being is of most importance to Pramila at this time and whatever she decides will be in concert with her son’s best interest. As a children’s advocate, I of course am most impressed by her commitment to her child’s future.
Pramila has had a profound, positive influence on the API community, especially as it relates to our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters and I commend the International Examiner for their recognition of her immense contributions.
Gloria Lung Wakayama – Philantropist of the Year
By Ron Chew
In an era when APIs have finally emerged out of the shadows and into the mainstream, most of our best API community leaders have finally received the recognition they’ve long deserved. Yet there are still others who have never sought – nor received – even a small measure of the credit they’re due.
At the very top of that list is Gloria Lung Wakayama. She’s one of my heroines. Her career embodies the very spirit of thoughtful social justice activism and quiet collaborative community-building that underpins the work of our most effective leaders. Talk to anyone who’s worked with her and you’ll begin to understand the depth of the respect she engenders from her long track record of selfless community service.
There’s hardly a nonprofit in town that hasn’t benefited from her diligent volunteer service or her generous financial contributions. Her board service includes the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Chong Wa Benevolent Association, United Way of King County, University of Washington Friends of EOP, Seattle University, American Heart Association “Go Red” campaign, and the Chinese Community Girls’ Drill Team. She’s also been a strong supporter of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service and International Community Health Services.
I know first-hand about the effectiveness of her nonprofit community work. She was either co-president or president of the Wing Luke Museum during most of my term as executive director, from 1991 to 2007 — a full 17 years. I’m often given much of the credit for the transformation of the museum from a tiny, debit-ridden historical society into the national museum model that it’s become today. But anyone who works in nonprofits knows that an organization can’t achieve great things on the shoulders of a single person. It always takes a strong team, both on a staff and on a board level. During the Wing’s audacious capital campaign drive to raise over $24 million to remodel a historic building in the International District — an amount totaling over 10 times the museum’s annual budget — Gloria was one of the best leaders among a group of leaders on the board of directors.
For five years, she helped anchor the board and the capital campaign committee — providing stewardship for the existing museum operation and helping spearhead fundraising for the new museum. The new museum was built on time and on budget in large part because of her steady hand, resourcefulness, persistence and grace. Her optimism, diplomacy and good judgment was especially appreciated during those inevitable lull periods in fundraising and during those jarring moments when personalities and egos clash. Each time, Gloria — working closely with her board cohorts — helped judiciously navigate us through choppy waters, helping us always keep our eyes on the prize. The capital campaign succeeded because of her inspired leadership.
I sometimes wonder how she ever had time to simultaneously serve on the Wing Luke board (and other boards as well), maintain her daytime job — a demanding position at her major law firm — and care for her two young children, Brady and Lindsay. But somehow she managed do it all – and be good at all of it, too. Maybe there was a clone of her roaming around somewhere. More likely, she had the skill and wisdom to rely on a strong community and family support network and to be a good friend and partner to those around her.
During a time when philanthropy to API causes was still in its inception, Gloria has been a trailblazer, following the example of her parents, Herb and Bertha Tsuchiya, her role models, both generous benefactors in their own right. During the Wing Luke capital campaign, Gloria and her husband, Dean, made a substantial financial contribution to help kick off the campaign, spurring other board members to step forward as well. She encouraged her extended family to give. She encouraged others in the Chinese American, API and larger community to donate as well. Through her example, she has helped spread greater awareness of — and appreciation for — the power of philanthropy, especially within a community that, in the early years, was more accustomed to returning money back to China to support overseas efforts rather than local endeavors.
During her long service on the Wing Luke board — and she’s still there today, four years after I’ve moved on to other pursuits — she devoted countless hundreds of hours to the cause of supporting an institution devoted to API history and fostering cultural and artistic creativity for the next generations. This interest stems quite naturally from her pride in her family’s long history in this region. Her great-grandparents were among the earliest Chinese pioneers in Port Townsend, and her maternal grandfather was a shareholder in the investment company which developed the historic building which now houses the Wing Luke Museum. Her commitment to preservation of this legacy — and the wider API history and culture — runs very deep.
It’s fitting to take a moment to celebrate Gloria’s commitment and her achievements, not simply at the Wing Luke Museum, where she’s made an indelible mark, but also in the many other places where she’s been a quiet force for helping foster the spirit of giving and community empowerment.
Dean Wong – Lifetime Achievement
By Gary Iwamoto
Dean Wong has channeled his talents, skills, and time into a lifetime commitment to community service. Dean was a child of the International District. He grew up in a converted storefront at 809 King Street, one in a row of converted storefronts which housed many Chinese families. He has fond memories of his childhood, remembering going to “Chinese Night” at the Kokusai Theater, watching movies of the Monkey King and playing at the Chong Wah Playfield with the other Chinese kids who lived in the neighborhood.
When Dean was about six, he met Donnie Chin. It was about this time when the construction of the Interstate 5 tore through the heart of the International District. Buildings were abandoned. Families were forced out of the International District. Dean and Donnie became great friends — even at their early ages — and both became concerned about the decline of their neighborhood. When they were nine or ten years old, Dean and Donnie formed “the Eagles Club,” a loose-knit club for the neighborhood kids. When homeless people looked for food in restaurant dumpsters, Dean and the kids from the Eagles Club would go up to that person with canned goods.
In the late 1960s, young Asian Americans began to assert their identities and took pride in community service. For Dean and Donnie, they formed “Asians for Unity.” A meeting place was found in a storefront in Canton Alley where Donnie’s grandfather lived in the basement. Members decided to take courses offered by the Red Cross, learning the proper techniques for cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. Donnie and Dean identified “at risk” seniors who lived in the International District, taking the time to bring them food and to make sure they were OK. And they collected food for the ACRS Food Bank. “Asians for Unity” then evolved into the International District Emergency Center with Dean and Donnie as founding members. Forty or so years later, Dean still volunteers with the Emergency Center, providing security and emergency first aid at community events.
Dean developed an early interest in photography. When he was just a kid, someone gave him a Kodak Brownie camera. He went down to a Seafair Parade to take a picture of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who was a featured dignitary, then took the negatives to GO Guy Drugstore to get the picture developed. It was the first of over a thousand pictures he would take.
Dean took his interest in photography to the University of Washington. He took courses at the School of Communications and met Ron Chew, a fellow journalism student. Like many other Asian college students, Dean joined the Asian Student Coalition where he found a kinship with others who were strongly committed to community service. As a member of the Asian Student Coalition, Dean helped organize the very first Street Fair in the International District. And never without his camera, Dean was there at every community meeting, demonstration, and march, providing a legacy of photographs to record the events that shaped the Asian Movement for posterity.
When Ron Chew became editor of the International Examiner, he sought out Dean and encouraged him to use his photographic eye. It was the start of Dean’s career as a photojournalist. Working on and off for the Examiner over an eight-year period, Dean began to branch out into writing feature stories while continuing to hone his craft as a photographer. Dean took his role as a photojournalist seriously, believing that he was serving the community by telling their stories and drawing attention to their events.
He began to appreciate the art of photography and his reputation started to grow. When community based organizations needed a photographer to take pictures at their events or for their publications, Dean was at the top of the list of photographers to call. When asked, he rarely said “no.”
By the 1990s, Dean started to actively display his work. In 1991, the Seattle Arts Commission awarded Dean with a $7500 grant which he used to develop a photo exhibit of San Francisco’s Chinatown. In the last twenty years, Dean’s photography has been exhibited in a variety of venues — the Wing Luke Museum, Seattle Central Community College, Photographic Center Northwest, Bumbershoot, Seattle Art Museum, Sea-Tac International Airport. He has generously donated his works for fundraising auctions for such organizations as the Artist Trust and the Northwest Aids Foundation.
Dean continues to grow as an artist. He is currently working on a book — a work of fiction that takes place in the International District in 1965. And his goal for this year is learning how to play the guitar. If there ever was a person deserving of recognition as an unsung hero, Dean Wong is that person. As long as I have known him, Dean has been soft-spoken, almost to a fault, confident in his own abilities but reluctant to toot his own horn.
Julie Pham – Tatsuo Nakata Youth Award
By Stacy Nguyen
“My philosophy is to keep moving and to make things happen, for yourself and for others,” Julie Pham recently said to me, over dim sum in the ID. “It’s about the journey, not the destination, because you can’t predict what will happen. I’m always asking questions because I think it’s important to forever be learning and exploring.”
Julie and I met in late 2008. I like to think of our first meeting as a blind date of sorts — we were set up by her dad, Editor-in-Chief Kim Pham, who proudly invited me to visit the office of Nguoi Viet Tay Bac (NVTB), Seattle’s oldest Vietnamese language newspaper, to meet his daughter, “Dr. Julie Pham.”
It was soon after Julie moved back to Seattle with a PhD under her belt, after years of training as a historian in Cambridge, Berkeley, Paris, and Hanoi. She quickly immersed herself in the family business and assumed the role of managing editor. Of course, she ended up being much more than that. (Eventually, she became a small business advocate, a community volunteer and organizer, an entrepreneur, a tech industry product evangelist — the list goes on.)
At the time, I too was a new editor, working at Northwest Asian Weekly. During that first meeting, I felt intimidated by her. For one, Julie talked incredibly fast, in long punctuated bursts, but I wouldn’t qualify them as rambles. Her bursts were strings of encyclopedic facts and statistics. That day, she threw stacks of newspapers at me to look through. As she data-dumped on me, she breathlessly cleaned her news room with machine-like efficiency.
I left her office feeling strangely inadequate.
Today, Julie works as a consultant for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, though she still spends time at her family’s newspaper on the weekends. Her resume is ridic — ridiculously impressive. Since her return to Seattle in 2008, her titles have included Sea Beez Founder and Executive Director; National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) Marketing Chair; Martin Luther King Business Association (MLKBA) Chair; and Seattle Symphony’s Celebrate Asia! committee member.
As her colleague in ethnic media, I worked with her on Sea Beez, an empowering program that brought 25 ethnic media outlets together, helping them create a strong, collective presence within the Greater Seattle area.
Julie told me she can pinpoint the exact moment the seed for Sea Beez was planted. On April 27, 2009, The Seattle Times ran an editorial, “Media’s Diversity Losses,” a treatise on the decline in the number of ethnic minority reporters in newsrooms. “I thought, wow, they overlooked us,” she said.
Julie responded by publishing an editorial in the Seattle Times, arguing that the number of minority reporters — and ethnic media — was on the rise and calling for new partnerships across media organizations. It was the same year the U.S. Census was really ramping up its efforts to count everyone. Ethnic media outlets, including NVTB, waited for the data to come out, confirming to others what they already knew: The ethnic and racial make-up of Americans had changed. Minority voices were louder than they had ever been.
Julie met leaders from other local ethnic media outlets, all doing valuable, yet often overlooked work, all wondering how to effectively maximize their resources and leverage their talents. It was in that climate that Julie conceptualized and founded Sea Beez. “I’m really proud of helping to create an organization that mobilized an existing desire among different ethnic media organizations to come together,” she said.
In its first year, 2010, Sea Beez organized workshops, forums, and political debates. Today, it carries on as a hyperlocal news content sharing site.
Over lunch, I asked Julie why, in her estimation, she is being given the International Examiner’s Tatsuo Nakata Youth Award at its 20th annual Community Voice Awards on May 16.
“I have no idea,” she said, laughing.
But of course, it’s plainly obvious why she is being given an award named in honor of a young man who demonstrated exemplary community service.
“People have this notion volunteering is purely altruistic, but I’ve personally benefited and learned a lot through community service,” she said. “Many people and organizations have believed in my potential and have helped me. It’s important to contribute to the cycle of giving. I have mentors. I mentor people. You’re never too young to mentor others. You’re never too old to be mentored.”
Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church – Outstanding Organization
By Sharon Maeda
Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church is the first church to be honored with a Community Voice Award. Blaine was the first Japanese congregation with roots back to the first Christian missionaries who came to the Washington Territory.
In a recent sermon, Blaine senior pastor, Rev. Derek Nakano, spoke about “radical hospitality” being part of the church’s history.
Rev. David and Catharine Blaine, who came as missionaries with the Denny Party, were instrumental in welcoming the first Japanese immigrants to the area.
The Blaine family not only started the first Christian church in the Washington Territory (First United Methodist Church), but was deeply connected to these new Japanese immigrants.
Catharine Blaine found a safe place to live for the earliest immigrant women from Japan. The house would later welcome immigrant women from around the world.
The Seattle Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church first worshipped in a borrowed business office on Main Street in what became the heart of Seattle’s “nihonmachi” or Japantown.
The Blaine’s son, E.L. Blaine, played an even more pivotal role than his missionary parents. He purchased the land and signed the Articles of Incorporation for the first Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church at 1235 Washington Street. At the time, the Alien Land Law prohibited the “issei” (first generation Japanese Americans) — and other Asian immigrants –— from owning land.
And, when the Japanese Americans were to be shipped off to American concentration camps during WWII, it was the elderly E.L. Blaine and First Church who stepped up to watch over the property until the congregation returned.
In 1956, the Seattle Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church changed its name to Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church in honor of the late E.L. Blaine, the man who practiced “radical hospitality” to an immigrant community.
And, fundamental to its mission, Blaine had paid that radical hospitality forward, a connection between their spirituality and community. For example, in 1973, a group of young social workers borrowed space at Blaine to start mental health counseling at what is now known as the Asian Counseling Referral Service (ACRS), one of the country’s outstanding multilingual human services providers.
Today, Blaine members work on rebuilding homes, churches and community facilities in Appalachia and in the path of Hurricane Katrina, and closer to home at the Yakama Nation. Others in the medical field provide free medical and dental services to people who have never seen a doctor or dentist before in Honduras and Jamaica.
Every month, the Blaine congregation collects donations of food, clothing and other necessities for different organizations serving the community. The Tuesday Ladies group created lap blankets for Keiro Nursing Home residents and continually take on service projects even in their 80s and 90s. Blaine youth are engaged in many community volunteer efforts, and the proceeds from the annual Sukiyaki Dinner benefit programs for homeless women in Seattle and schools in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
And, nearly forty years after its relationship with those social workers started, Blaine continues to have one of the largest contingents at the ACRS annual Walk for Rice.
“What motivates us – we were once treated as outcasts, and we now have a sense of belonging here in a loving and caring community,” Rev. Nakano continued in his sermon. “It started with being welcomed and it ends up blessing others” just as the Blaine family did, over a hundred years ago.
Although they would never look for the recognition, it is fitting that Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church celebrates its 108th anniversary as a Community Voice Awardee.